Learn How Yoga Could Serve You Better!

Turn your “stay at home” isolation into valuable at-home learning time with author and Yoga College director Rob Walker.

Deepen your understanding of evidence-based yoga in a serious but fun atmosphere of shared virtual space.

And for those who need it, collect Yoga Alliance continuing credit hours.

Based on the radical ideas in his new book, The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity.

Great for any yoga student, teacher and prospective teacher trainee. 

“This course is going to be fabulous and really valuable for students!” – Jocelyn, participant.

Course dates are April 25/26, May 2/3, 9/10, 16/17 noon till 2:30 pm. Investment: $245 plus GST.

To register, go to www.albertayogacollege.com, then click on the home page button, Online Classes>

In this course you will discover:

• Flexibility is not the primary goal. Really? Yes—more importantly are ten other benefits including proprioception and interoception, two new buzzwords. 

• Mobility tops flexibility. Focus on better control over a safe range of movement. 

• “Practice and all is coming.” Not so! Despite the famous guru’s oft quoted words, we may never achieve certain poses. And trying will lead to injury. 

• Avoid repetitive stress and encourage brain health with frequent and varying moves on and off the mat. 

• ‘Pretzel yogis’ pushing extreme flexibility leads to injury and misplaced envy. Hyper-mobility is not something to covet; it’s sad. 

• Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maintain what works but question everything for good evidence.

There will be online interaction, group work and personalized feedback in every module with senior yoga teacher Rob Walker, author of The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity, hailed by yoga master David McAmmond as “essential reading for yoga students and teachers alike.”

Don’t wait, sign up now and reserve one of a limited number of spots!

To register, go to www.albertayogacollege.com, then click on the home page button, Online Classes>

Yoga for Brain Health?

Writing a book like The New Yoga is not the last word in where yoga should be going, but an staging post in an evolving journey to more evidence-based yoga. That journey brings me today to assess the evidence for yoga playing an important role in sharpening the mind to prevent cognitive decline.

It was a huge breakthrough forty or fifty years ago when neuroscientists declared that the continual decline in our mental abilities as we age is not set in stone as they and the public earlier believed. The discovery was a 180 degree turn and holds out one of the greatest hopes for humankind – that we can rescue our brains from inevitable decline. This is especially true as baby boomers threaten to overwhelm the health care system in the next decade with a surge of Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

So, what does this have to do with yoga? Well, everything if you realize the symbiosis of brain and body.

I recently came across, Soft-Wired, How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, by Michael Merzenich, the “father” of brain plasticity. He says that when most people think about physical exercise, they don’t give much thought to its importance for brain health. He aims to change that deficit . . .

So, he highlights six simple brain plasticity-based rules for your physical exercise regime. Each one of his rules (in italics) is strongly supported by The New Yoga practice:

  1. Focus on feeling of the flow of movement. Staying attentive to your practice with the breath is what defines yoga and distinguishes it from workouts in the gym – where your attention can be on a TV or a magazine while the body does its supposedly separate workout. Merzenich stresses the importance of paying attention to the feeling of the flow of the movement to achieve cognitive as well as just physical benefit. 
  • Move with your whole body. Merzenitz contrasts this with working in the gym. Working on exercise machines in a (brainless) fitness centre is an example of how not to make the best use of your physical exercise time, he says. Before I read Merzenich I wrote on page 63 of The New Yoga: “Great athletes—and yogis—have tunnel vision for the task at hand. They are not like the person in the gym mindlessly running on the treadmill with ear buds, TV screen and magazines to divide attention.” Yoga poses involve, not just the whole body but the whole being – mind and body.
  • Rigorously avoid stereotypic movements. He advocates moving in different ways to reach the same point. In The New Yoga (page 57) I say: “Recognizing the value of variability we can consciously teach and practice yoga poses in various ways to challenge our movement and neuro-motor skills.” I first read about the value of variability in Todd Hargrove’s book, A Guide to Better Movement, in which he says the brain is best exercised with a variety of movements. (Page 85)
  • Include postural variations and weights. This is really the flip side of 3. The New Yoga addresses the need to vary the way you get into and out of poses like Virabhadrasana III, Warrior 3 (Page 57)
  • Monitor the quality and precision of your movement. The New Yoga is alignment based in so far as alignment supports injury-prevention and accurate proprioception. What characterizes great athletes is not their wide range of movement but their very precise control over a fairly normal range. 
  • Master a wide range of possible speeds. From Hatha Yoga to Vinyasa to Restorative to Yin, the speed of practice varies from a flowing routine with a few breaths per pose to many minutes in asanas.

Elsewhere (page 174) Merzenitz stresses the need to challenge our balance as a key factor for maintaining the health of our brains. And again, yoga addresses the need to maintain balance almost more than any other mainstream form of exercise. Our cultural evolution has done a wonderful job of impoverishing the maintenance of our movement control. The New Yoga corrects that deficit, emphasizing the importance of balance (pages 68-70) as the most common factor behind injury prevention in older adults. I reference mechanobiologist Katy Bowman, in Move Your DNA as emphasizing the importance of balance. So, I was excited to see someone in another field of science stressing the same need for a variety of challenges to our complex neurobiology of balance. Humans were neurologically constructed to operate in a physical world in which every step is uncertain . . . fine adjustments in posture are almost continuously required for movement control . . . Massive brain exercise results from these basic physical operations, says Merzenitz.

So next time someone says they cannot take up yoga because they can’t touch their toes, remind them of the importance of a wide range of other yoga benefits for brain health – and perhaps show them a copy of The New Yoga!

Book Launch News Release


GlobeNewswire

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Calgary Author Challenges Everything We Assumed We Knew About Yoga

March 12, 2020 06:00 ET Source:  Alberta Yoga College

BOOK LAUNCH SUNDAY MARCH 15, 2020

The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity

CALGARY, Alberta, March 12, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Yoga needs a major shakeup and needs to drop many nonsensical and dangerous cues to bring it safely and sensibly into the 21st century, according to a prominent British/Canadian yoga teacher in an internationally-relevant new book on Amazon. 

Where did most of those yoga moves come from that we see in yoga classes across the world? A guru from the annals of Indian folklore? Or were those “thousand-year-old poses” really a twentieth century invention hidden behind a veil of tall stories? Were they based on movement science–or cooked-up creations with a big pinch of folklore?

The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity by Rob Walker, London/Calgary journalist, author and yoga teacher trainer, takes a brutally hard look at these critical questions. He proposes six radical steps to strip away the nonsense and provide common-sense yoga for the future, based on movement science.

Rob Walker quotes a wide range of experts and speaks from his own twenty-year yoga teacher-training experience. He dumps accepted dogma behind much current teaching and brings a fresh sparkle of evidence and science to twenty-first-century yoga.

ROB WALKER is certified as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher with the US-based Yoga Alliance. He has studied yoga in India extensively and holds a fourth level of certification in Iyengar Yoga, a style he no longer subscribes to. Walker had a long and successful career in journalism in London, UK on the Daily Mail and at the Calgary Herald before turning his passion for yoga into full-time teaching twenty years ago. In 2001 he transitioned from writing about healthcare to owning his own yoga studios. His current focus and passion is training yoga teachers at his college, helping them understand the principles and benefits of The New Yoga.

Walker is available for interview ahead of, or at his book launch 2pm – 5 pm Sunday, March 15 at his studio, The Alberta Yoga College at 2439 54 Ave SW, Calgary.

Contact:
Rob Walker
Phone Number: +1-403 862 6042
Email: rob@albertayogacollege.com 

The Surprising Origins of Modern Postural Yoga

If we look back over the last 2,000 years of yoga history, there was little to predict or prepare for the sudden upsurge of what has become known as Modern Postural Yoga (MPY) now practiced in some form or other in yoga studios on every street corner.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, written by Patanjali, the so-called father of yoga 2,000 years ago, offer no details about any specific poses or asanas even though the infamous Bikram Choudray, of Bikram Yoga fame, implies otherwise with his disingenuous reference to the “eighty-four asanas as derived from Patanjali” (Mark Singleton, Yoga Body, The Origins of Modern Postural Yoga 2010).

Bikram was a key figure who introduced yoga from modern India to America. He franchised his very precise style in licensed studios from his base in Hollywood throughout North America and across the world in the 

1970s and 1980s.However, this book is primarily about a different, broader line of influence.

Before the twentieth century, there had been no books focusing primarily on yoga poses.The sixteenth-century Hathayogapradipika names only fifteen poses, or asanas—most of them seated or supine. There are no sun salutations, no downward-facing dogs or warriors, no sequences and certainly no classes. The seventeenth-century Gheranda Samhita has just thirty-two asanas. Asanas in both books are subservient to other aspects of yoga. Other aspects include pranayama (the yogic science of breathing), instructions for drawing discharged semen back into the penis so as to overcome death, and even guidance on severing the tendon connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth to lengthen the tongue in order to touch one’s own forehead!

Until the early twentieth century, middle-class Indians and their British colonial overseers showed disdain for the ‘occult’ practices of what we now come to know widely as hatha yoga. Yoga icon, Swami Vivekananda, who first brought yoga to the West at the end of the nineteenth century reflected current opinion of the time. “We have nothing to do with it here, because its practices are very difficult and cannot be learnt in a day, and, after all, do not lead to much spiritual growth,” he wrote in his seminal work, Raja Yoga (23).

The upsurge of interest in dozens of asanas and their requirement for limitless flexibility arose from of a curious combination of three circumstances in the early and mid-twentieth century—circumstances of which the previous millennia of yoga practitioners could hardly have conceived.

They were:

  1. the worldwide revival of physical culture in the early twentieth century; 
  2. the sponsorship of a gymnastic style of vinyasa yoga by a powerful Indian raj; and
  3. the preservation and virtual sanctification of one of these many vinyasas and their adoption by a Western audience 

(Extract from pages 3/4 of The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity)

The New Yoga

“Honest, insightful and revealing. Essential reading for yoga students and teachers alike.”

– DAVID MCAMMOND, AUTHOR OF YOGA THERAPY FOR BACKS AND INTERNATIONALLY SOUGHT-AFTER WORKSHOP LEADER.

The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity.

Where did most of your yoga moves come from? A guru from the annals of Indian folklore? Or were those “thousand-year-old poses” really a twentieth-century invention hidden behind a veil of tall stories? Were they based on movement science–or cooked-up creations with a big pinch of folklore? The New Yoga takes a brutally hard look at these critical questions. It proposes six radical steps to strip away the nonsense and provide common-sense yoga for the future, based on movement science:

  • Flexibility is not the primary goal. Really? Yes—more importantly are ten other benefits including proprioception and interoception, our two new buzzwords.
  • Mobility tops flexibility. Focus on better control over a safe range of movement.
  • “Practice and all is coming.” Not so! Despite the famous guru’s oft-quoted words, we may never achieve certain poses. And trying will lead to injury.
  • Avoid repetitive stress and encourage brain health with frequent and varying moves on and off the mat.
  • ‘Pretzel yogis’ pushing extreme flexibility leads to injury and misplaced envy. Hyper-mobility is not something to covet; it’s sad.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maintain what works but question everything for good evidence.

Rob Walker quotes a wide range of experts and speaks from his own twenty-year yoga teacher-training experience. He dumps accepted dogma behind much current teaching and brings a fresh sparkle of evidence and science to twenty-first-century yoga.

INTRODUCTION

“Any assertion that transnational postural yoga is of a piece with . . . Indian yogic tradition is . . . highly questionable.”

-Mark Singleton (2010, 27)

Many yoga teachers have started to question what is taught in yoga, what is of value, what is questionable and what is frankly, dangerous, or at best ill-informed. Perhaps for the first time The New Yoga takes a hard look at those concerns, recounts current yoga’s strange and unlikely origins and then suggests how asana (poses) can become safer, more inclusive and evidence-based.

Many have been led to believe the poses that dominate the physical practice of today came from the misty origins of yoga over several millennia. The New Yoga points instead to an American physical culturist and a Danish gymnast (among others) as more influential to today’s yoga, than cavedwelling Tibetan mystics and Hindu seers of old.

But reluctant to throw out the baby with the bathwater, The New Yoga, seeks to maintain the amazing gifts and insights that come from Mysore, Pune and other Indian centres of yoga inspiration, albeit mostly created in the early 20th century.

Drawing on the wisdom of modern yoga historians, functional scientists, biomechanists, yogi anatomists and the author’s own experience, The New Yoga plays down the obsession with flexibility. Instead of the Cirque du Soleil image of yoga portrayed on Instagram, The New Yoga emphasizes strength, endurance, mindfulness, breath, posture and other gifts that yoga offers but are rarely the focus of current teaching.

The New Yoga recounts the myths and tales frequently fabricated to give authority to the guru’s own words. It shows the yoga we practice today was a transnational blend of gymnastics, body culture and performance with a tiny dash of ancient yogic spice.

It is a mixed blessing that there is no regulating authority governing the diverse world of yoga, as with massage and physical therapy. Yoga has always been free from the shackles of spiritual or secular authorities. But without official oversight, superficially trained teachers often teach the yoga of today in neighborhood studios. Some unquestioningly repeat the words handed down from generation to generation of well-meaning but sometimes poorly informed predecessors.

This book is not one of primary scholarship, but a serious attempt to bring an overview to the history of modern yoga and point us towards a more effective and safer future. Hopefully, this book will inspire yoga teachers to continually learn, question and grow; and for the discriminating students, they will choose yoga studios and teachers more wisely.